1 Kings 12.26-13.10

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the House of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam King of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam King of Judah.”

So the King took counsel, and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to the one at Bethel and to the other as far as Dan. He also made temples on high places, and appointed priests from among the people, who were not of the Levites.

And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah; and he offered sacrifices upon the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and he ordained a feast for the people of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense.

And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel.

Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and he shall sacrifice upon you the priests of the high places who burn incense upon you; and men’s bones shall be burnt upon you.'”

And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.’ “

And when the King heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Lay hold of him.”

And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

And the King now said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.”

And the man of God entreated the Lord; and the King’s hand was restored to him, and became as it was before. And the King said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.”

And the man of God said to the King, “If you will give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying ‘You shall neither eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way that you came.'”

So he went another way, and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.


4 responses

  1. It’s the next part of the story that gets me. The old prophet sideswiping the young prophet. As for me, I do pray. I pray that the arms that do evil will hang limp. Better that they be converted to blessing others. But hanging limp is good enough otherwise.

  2. Yeah, the next part (getting to that…) is quite a story. Says a lot about the nature of prophetting, though I certainly haven't figured out "what it means."This incident, ie Jeroboam trying to set up his own local state religion, is probably where we got the story of Moses, Aaron, and "the golden calf."Those "calves" in these stories are actually bulls, which seem to have symbolized Yahweh as well as the old Canaanite 'Baal'. The fondness of Israelite kings for Baal, rather than Yahweh, seems pretty natural, much like Henry VIII's preference for his own 'Church of England.' It's not easy being a ruler, if your people's religion is controlled by a cult centered in a rival nation.Yahweh, Baal, what's the difference? Between the Lord and a god named "Lord" (which Baal evidently does mean?) "El", too, was a Canaanite deity, and stories where God was named "El" made it into the Bible.I'm groping a bit, here… but I've read that the religion of the old tribal Israel had been the 'subversive' religion of tribes who'd escaped and avoided slavery by occupying the hill country, where the troops of Egyptian colonial governers and Canaanite rulers couldn't use their chariots effectively. The Baal cult was still a bit 'high church', as some later stories suggest.I gather this altar gets rebuilt, too!

  3. Good observations, thanks. I want to bear them in mind when we get to Ezra where the language transits from gods to God. I find it tricky to tease out what inferences to make while reading Ezra. And maybe the inferences are more difficult in these passages with plural gods and plural bulls playing against the ambiguities of maybe-plural elohim (if ambiguities were heard in the term, elohim, at that time). The reference to Henry VIII having his own church cements the imagery of political shenanigans here. Still, the language of the text remains curious to me: gods, God, bulls, elohim. Maybe we can never recover the felt or heard ambiguities of these words as they played out in those times? – like we cannot smell the sour stench of horse dung on the streets of England in the background of Shakespeare performances? Whatever the stench of Jeroboam’s sin really was, it’s clear that it was a sin in the noses of later editors who applauded the fall of the northern domain. I want to retain my status as an amateur reader of these texts. My first naivete. Between the textual curiosities in these passages alongside learning more and more about everyday life, it’s difficult to remain naive. Curious? – what’s the probability (possibility) that Jeroboam or his court may have thought they were honoring Yahweh tradition? I know that’s a crazy question. I don’t know why it’s bugging me. As you said, “Yahweh, Baal, what’s the difference?”

  4. Jeroboam could make a case that he was honoring the Yahweh tradition better than the Jerusalem regime…because Yahweh was the name of the entity credited with busting the tribes out of slavery in Egypt– While the Davidic monarchy in Judah had evidently imposed forced labor on other tribes, with Judah seemingly exempt(?).Yahweh's way of government, after the Israelite tribes were first allied against the 'Canaanite' rulers (probably all these allied tribes were themselves Canaanite except for the Levites?)–was a tribal political anarchy united occasionally in wartime by their religious leadership, ie the "Judges".Jereboam's secession was as much a "sin" in the noses of later Jerusalem-tradition scribes– as the Reformation was in the eyes of the Pope's bureaucracy.But what we get in the Bible, because of it coming together in Babylon after both regimes had been conquered, was a blend of both traditions, Jerusalem & the Kingdom of Israel. With the Samaritans getting a raw deal from both. (They claim to be Jewish, dating their separation to the foundation of Saul's kingdom, a newfangled innovation their ancestors just didn't hold with. While the Jews after the return from Babylon considered them to be a bunch of mongrels descended from low-class Israelites & foreigners brought in by the Assyrians. Doesn't seem to matter as much as either of them thought.)

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